Land, Natural Resources, and Violent Conflict

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Land, Natural Resources, and Violent Conflict. Presenter: John W. Bruce. Property Rights and Resource Governance Issues and Best Practices October 2011. Land as a multi-dimensional resource Land and NR conflict Vulnerabilities to conflict Triggers of violent conflict
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Land, Natural Resources, and Violent ConflictPresenter: John W. BruceProperty Rights and Resource Governance Issues and Best PracticesOctober 2011Land as a multi-dimensional resource
  • Land and NR conflict
  • Vulnerabilities to conflict
  • Triggers of violent conflict
  • Two case studies: Sudan and Eritrea
  • Ethnicity and conflict
  • Land in the conflict cycle
  • Some best practices
  • Take aways
  • Overview of the presentation:Land as a multi-dimensional resource
  • A means of production, basis of livelihoods
  • An asset for economic and social security
  • A source of political power and revenue
  • A source of identity, social status and a sense of ancestral ‘belonging’
  • A deeply political and emotional topic as well as an economically important one
  • Land means different things to different actors, and is valued by them for quite different reasons3Land and NR conflict
  • Multiple & overlapping uses (hunting, herding, farming), by different kinds of users (individuals, households, kinship groups) of different status (primary, secondary and tertiary)
  • Competition for land among ethnic groups, political factions, economic classes
  • The role of legal pluralism: Competition between customary & state land tenure systems
  • 4Vulnerabilities to conflict
  • Land scarcity: absolute, distributive, environmental
  • Insecurity of tenure: fear of loss of land access and/or displacement
  • Grievance: long-standing resentments, often over earlier displacements
  • 5Triggers of violent conflict
  • Events intensifying competition
  • Emergence of new markets or other demands for land
  • Technological change
  • Land disputes
  • Displacement events
  • Drought, deforestation
  • War and civil disorder
  • Political events
  • Reforms allowing emergence of suppressed claims
  • Failed states, political vacuums
  • 6Case study: Sudan
  • In the east-central plains, land taken by state for rain-fed mechanized “shifting” cultivation leads to crumbling government authority
  • In the South, undermining of custom clears way for imposition of shari’a and leads to civil war
  • In the West (Darfur), climate change, migration southward and violation of “dars”, in the absence of customary mediation, results in war and atrocities.
  • The combustible amalgam of land takings, ethnicity, religious fundamentalism
  • Prospects for change? Efforts to re-establish native authorities, but how do you recreate custom?
  • Case study: Eritrea/Ethiopia
  • May 1998: Clash between Ethiopian troops and Eritrean intruders in the border town of Badme, on a contested border.
  • Mediation fails, calls for defense of sacred national territory on both sides, escalation into full war.
  • By mid-1999 the confronting armies numbered some 400,000 men, and 50,000 soldiers had died.
  • Peace negotiated in Algeria in 2000, ICJ adjudicates border but Eritrea refuses to agree. Tensions persist.
  • Did the conflict have anything much to do with land?
  • Ethnicity and land conflict
  • Specific conflicting claims to land/resources become a focus for discontent, polarizing groups
  • As group identities become ‘fixed’ through media portrayals, there is a risk of politicization, especially by conflict entrepreneurs
  • Disputes can then accelerate the development of tensions or trigger violence
  • 9Land in the conflict cycle
  • Land as a structural cause of conflict: Land creates a vulnerability which events may trigger
  • Land triggers conflict: Disputes over land can turn into violent conflict
  • Land sustains conflict: Land with high-value resources sustain insurgencies and warring factions
  • Land post-conflict: prior conflict often remain unresolved, and restitution to returnees can spark new conflict
  • Huggins estimates that 40% of conflicts which have ended restart within ten years. Underlying causes must be addressed.10Post-conflict best practice: Timor-Leste
  • 2007 USAID launches project focused on policy/lkaw reform, communications and consultations, land dispute resolution, creation of National Land Commission.
  • The policy/law reform and institutional work has lagged, but the public education program has been creative and effective, and the land dispute resolution activity has achieved impressive results.
  • Three person field teams (team leader, land dispute resolution specialist, and mapper) have resolved most conflicting claims. Only 5-7% of cases have gone into the formal dispute resolution process.
  • Best practices
  • Fire-fighting (ad-hoc commissions, dispute mediations by NGOs, etc.) can play a vital role in building peace in the short term.
  • But long-term national commitment
  • to redress may also be required.
  • Return to ‘status quo’ may mean
  • eventual return to violence.
  • This often means both supporting
  • and challenging government.
  • Sustainable change cannot be
  • imposed, only facilitated.12Best practices (continued)Tools that can avoid conflict include:
  • Enhanced voice for grievances and concerns
  • Land policy and law reform
  • Land restitution
  • Land governance reform
  • Improved records of rights in land and mapping
  • Fairer and more prompt land dispute resolution
  • Improved land access and security of tenure
  • Land programs with conflict-resolution objectives
  • Support consciousness-changing initiatives
  • 13Many land conflicts are only in part about land.
  • Conflict often involves disagreements over values as well as interests, with no consensus on the basic ‘rules of the game’
  • The parties therefore have fundamentally different conceptual models of the conflict
  • Technical “fixes” and “fire-fighting” may buy time, but future conflict will not be averted unless the participants’ understandings of the conflict are managed or transformed.
  • Long-term solutions involve addressing complaints, changing perceptions and constructing common ground.
  • Take aways
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